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Suspects in triple-murder robbery were fresh from prison

(L-R) Antwan Andre Anthony, 29, and Xavier Montel Shamble, 19, and Willie Whitehead, 23.
(L-R) Antwan Andre Anthony, 29, and Xavier Montel Shamble, 19, and Willie Whitehead, 23.Pitt County Sheriff Dept.

Two suspects in a triple murder-robbery at a convenience store in rural North Carolina were released from prison — one after serving nine years — just a matter of weeks before they were arrested in connection with the April 1 slayings.

The crime took place as three employees at Hustle Mart in Farmville, N.C. — including the teenage son of the owner and his two cousins — were preparing to close for the night. Three armed men with their faces all or partly covered covered burst in the store to rob it. They also apparently shot the employees despite no obvious signs that the victims had tried to resist. A customer discovered the bodies shortly after the perpetrators left, around 10 p.m.

The three victims were Mokbel Mohamed Almujanhi, 16 – known at his high school as "Sam" — Nabil Nasser Saeed Al’mogannahi, 26, and Gaber Alawi, 24.

Surveillance video from the scene of the crime and tips from the public led police to arrest four suspects on April 4:  Antwan Andre Anthony, 29; Xavier Montel Shamble, 19; Willie Whitehead, 23, and a fourth male whose name was not disclosed because he is a minor.

One of those suspects, Antwan Anthony, had spent most of the past decade in Connecticut prisons before being released on Jan. 21, according to a report by the Hartford Courant, citing prison records. He was allowed to serve out a five-year parole in North Carolina where he has family, the report said.

Anthony was initially jailed in 2002 on second-degree assault charges, the paper reported. He had three subsequent convictions, while in prison, for assaulting prison guards — each time extending his sentence, the report said.

Anthony was "a very difficult inmate," according to a Connecticut correctional official quoted by Greenville area newspaper, the Daily Reflector. The official said that his behavior prompted more than 100 disciplinary reports while he was incarcerated in that state.

Corrections personnel told the Courant that Anthony committed a fourth assault, in Sept. 2010, that was not charged.

State police were called into investigate after Anthony allegedly head-butted an officer while being transported, and an arrest warrant was submitted to the state's attorney's office in Tolland, a spokesman for the union that represents Connecticut’s corrections officers told the Courant.

"We had no idea why he wasn't prosecuted and that didn't sit well with the men and women in the state prison system,'' Larry Dorman, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 4 which, represents prison guards, told the Courant.

Police hunt for suspects in triple murder-robbery in rural N. Carolina

Another of the four suspects, Xavier Montel Shamble, 19, had been out of a North Carolina prison for just three weeks when he allegedly took part in the crime that left three young men dead, records from the North Carolina Department of Corrections show.

The records also reveal a history of repeat convictions for the third suspect, Willie Whitehead, 23, who had served time for offenses including robbery with a dangerous weapon and larceny dating back to 2004. He was released after serving time for his last conviction -- for possession of a weapon by a felon -- last August.

The three adult suspects are being held in Pitt County Detention Center in North Carolina. Police did not release the whereabouts of the underage suspect.

In surveillance videos, the victims, whose family is originally from Yemen, did not appear to put up any kind of resistance to the robbers during the April 1 encounter, said Christy Wallace, public information director for the Pitts County sheriff’s office.

“There wasn’t anything they could have done differently,” she said.

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